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Textbook Preview? Most Parents Pass Up the Chance

The school district's curriculum lab hasn't had much success getting input on teaching materials, but its volunteer program has generated more interest.

May 29, 2000|ALEX MURASHKO | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Each year, the fliers go home with students, announcements are made at PTA meetings, and local newspapers carry the times and dates. It is an open invitation to parents of the Westminster School District's kindergarten through eighth-grade students to preview textbooks under consideration.

But not many parents visit the curriculum lab at the district office to inspect the books, which are sometimes displayed for nearly a month, said Linda Baxter, who runs the curriculum and instruction department.

"We don't get a ton of people," Baxter said.

This may just mean parents are content with the district's approval process, she said.

With each new set of proposed books, an adoption committee, made up of teachers, parents and administrators, researches the material approved by the state education department and judges whether the material meets the district's needs, Baxter said. Typically, the material for one subject a year is up for review.

The committee presents its decision to the Board of Trustees, and the board then votes on whether to approve the material.

Recently, supplementary math material for students in the first three years of school was up for review. With less than a week left in the review process, lab technician Lupe Fisher said perhaps one parent a day was looking at the books.

Though the open review may be poorly attended, Fisher said she sees more parent participation in the lab's main purpose, which is to help teachers develop and enhance instructional programs. Fisher has been with the district for 23 years, and helps direct 40 parent volunteers who assist teachers looking for support on class projects.

The volunteer program is 25 years old. Some parents spend an hour or two a week in the lab, while others come in for the day, Fisher said.

"The parents involved here are doing something for their children," she said. "It gives them a good idea about what their children are studying and what books are being used.

"It also gives them a chance to interact with other parents and to talk to teachers and instructional aides."

Fisher recruits volunteers by being active in the PTA and by being the chairwoman of the Westminster Community Collaborative, which includes members from the city's nonprofit organizations. She will honor volunteers at a luncheon Friday.

The curriculum lab is open from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Those unable to attend during regular hours may make appointments for other times. The district office is at 14121 Cedarwood Ave.

Information: (714) 894-7311, Ext. 465.

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Alex Murashko can be reached at (714) 966-5974.

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